Canadian provinces mull joint drug-price cuts

Every Canadian province is watching Ontario, which last month overhauled its drug-pricing scheme to combat the rising cost of generic drugs. The province aims to stop "professional allowances" paid to pharmacists by drugmakers--and hopes to save millions by cutting the cost of generic drugs to one-fourth the branded price, from one-half now.

Now, Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews is trying to persuade other provinces to adopt similar strategies, saying that unless the reforms take hold nationwide, pharmacy chains will find a way to work around the Ontario provisions. They might buy drugs in bulk in the provinces where terms are most favorable, Matthews suggests.

But the other provinces aren't keen to simply leap in--though many do acknowledge that the current pricing system is out of whack. ("B.C. and Ontario share the view that the status quo is unacceptable," British Columbia's health minister told the Globe & Mail.) Some are taking a wait-and-see approach, the National Post reports, while others are mulling cooperative regional efforts.

"The Department of Health will monitor the outcomes of this process in Ontario to assess impacts or opportunities in New Brunswick," a spokeswoman for that province told the Post. Nova Scotia, for its part, says that it's talking with the other Atlantic provinces about coordinating a medication-pricing effort. Quebec says it's considering following Ontario's lead. And the Western Provinces are talking about a joint effort as well, the Globe & Mail reports.

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